Self Care 101

Self-care isn’t selfish. “Self-care is giving the world the best of you instead of what’s left of you”  – Katie Reed. 

Self-care… What does it really mean? Self-care is a term that has been thrown around a lot lately, especially during the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers, teachers, professionals, family, and other parents have all been pushing this idea of taking care of yourself because it’s becoming more known of how important mental health is, and how some “you” time can make a difference in caring for your overall wellbeing, not just your physical self. 

Parenthood can be an extremely rewarding part of your life, but it can be extremely busy and tiring too. In order to fulfill the needs of your children and family, you need to be able to successfully meet your own needs too. Ensuring healthy and regular self-care practices are ingrained in your routine can be an effective way to avoid parental burnout and emotional distress. When the stress and responsibilities are feeling a bit too much, having regular self-care practices in place will allow you to care for your own wellbeing and help you to take control of your needs as a parent. 

So you may be wondering what self-care really is and how you can practice self-care amidst your busy life as a parent. The truth is, self-care looks different for everybody. It can be as simple as using a bath bomb and lighting some candles for some people, and for others it may be doing laundry or checking in with a mental health professional. 

The general idea of self-care is that it’s actions or tasks a person takes part in to promote their best physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual self to be the most vibrant and happy person they can be. Self-care reduces stress and prioritizes well-being to maintain a well balanced life. Taking part in routine self-care practices can help when needing to cope with more intense stressors or overwhelming feelings. 

Physical self-care may include a daily hygiene routine, eating vegetables each day, getting 8 hours of sleep, and taking a walk for fresh air. Mental self-care could be taking a 1 hour break from your phone or social media, making a to-do list, reading a book, or completing a crossword puzzle. Emotional self-care can be talking or spending time with close friends or family, journaling, or making an appointment with your therapist. Spiritual self care may be practicing mindfulness breathing, yoga, or taking part in faith practices such as praying or visiting a place of worship. 

A way I like to think of self-care is like a pyramid, the self-care practices at the wide base of the pyramid are everyday practices you do to take care of yourself and are part of everyday coping for your mental health. As you go up the pyramid, your self-care practices may get more refined and specific as you need coping mechanisms more directed towards what’s going on. For example, on the bottom of a self-care pyramid, everyday self-care practices can be: spending quality time with a pet, making a to-do list, going for a walk/spending time outside, doing a daily skincare routine. At the bottom of this pyramid, you can see a few of the self-care categories are being met; physical, social, and emotional. From here, it’s important to do regular check-ins with yourself to reflect on how you’re feeling and acknowledge if you’ve been triggered by anything throughout your day. If you have, you may need a more specific self-care intervention, such as talking to a close friend about what’s going on, practicing mindful breathing, or disengaging from social media for the rest of the day. As you get towards the top of your pyramid, if you’re experiencing more severe mental health difficulties, options begin to get more specific towards what interventions are needed, such as booking an appointment with a mental health professional (therapist, doctor, etc.), or meeting up with a safe and trusted friend who you know can help you through the crisis you’re experiencing. 

As you can see, self-care doesn’t just have to be a bubble bath and yoga. Self-care looks different for everybody based on their needs, priorities, and parental difficulties that coping mechanisms are needed for. There are different categories of self-care and layers within those categories. To take part in the most effective self-care practices, try checking in with yourself daily to see how you’re feeling and be reflective with what’s been going on. Think of self-care as self-preservation rather than self-indulgence. Do you need to practice any specific self-care practices today? What self-care practices will balance well with your role as a parent? What triggers have you experienced today and did you cope well with them? What is part of your daily self-care routine and what would you like to introduce to this routine? These are all important questions to ask yourself as you continue on your journey to your best personal self!  

Written by: Olivia Holden